Officials at Dell want to take software-enabled networking one step further and create channels that primarily consist of software-based networks (SBNs). The company is already in the cloud brokering business and aims to tackle the datacenter and server space with high-capacity, simple hardware.
By using servers for telecommunications jobs, "more of the software can be written using much more familiar tools for a much wider population of programmers. It just drives that next level of innovation,” Jai Menon, vice president of research and innovation and head of Dell Research, told EE Times. “Tremendous power and functions can be done now with just software running on servers. You don’t need that [traditional telco] box at all.”
The telecom industry is ripe for SBN because of the quick pace of mobile data increase and the slow pace of infrastructure installation. Unburdened by hardware providers, telecom companies using SBNs will be able to rapidly enter new arenas.
“Networking needs to change dynamically, and you need an agile datacenter that’s able to flexibly grow and shrink storage capability, networking capability,” Menon told us, suggesting telecom companies using SBNs may be able to cache closer to the edge to reduce bandwidth. “The agility that software-based stuff provides will be really important for the telcos to start entering into IoT spaces.”
Although the journey to SBN in the telecom industry may take 10 years, Menon said his research team is doing early proof-of-concept research to support 1 million telecom users on a quarter rack of standard Dell servers and some software. The team is also researching how to take a typical server and increase its packet processing rate from 200,000 packets per second to 2 million per second.
“You’re still going to find purpose-built hardware… for a very long time. For almost everything else, good enough will be good enough,” Dell's Swainson says. “If you start taking basic switching and routing stuff and say you can do it on software and general purpose hardware, it will have an impact.”
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times